Last night I had dinner with a former student, Wayne Watts (aka DK). Wayne was one of my star pupils in a service learning course I team taught about a decade ago. It was, by far the riskiest, more challenging, scariest course I ever taught--and the most rewarding. The title was Popular Culture and Literacy in America, and I will confess right now that I put "popular culture" in the title -- to recruit unsuspecting students into a service learning course where they would tutor students at a large, minority-majority high school. If I had given it a more straightforward title, I would have been preaching to the choir. We let them know the first day of class what we would be doing, so they had the chance to find another course if they wanted.
When I say "team taught", I am not kidding. The course was planned, steered and assessed by myself, a PhD student, and a team of undergraduate teaching assistants who met at my house every week for debriefing and planning. Wayne took the class as a student once, and then served as a teaching assistant for several more semesters.
Since graduation, he has pursued two passions: his musical career and mentoring. For him, they are deeply connected; he takes them both equally seriously and uses one to enhance the other. Right now, in addition to his performing gigs, he is running an after school tutoring and mentoring program very much like the one in our course, but much bigger, with multiple locations, and a cadre of mentors who are not students, but older adults who need training and support to connect with their young students. He is also developing a program of online mentoring podcasts and interviews that is simply brilliant. See more about this impressive young man on his website: http://www.dkakawaynewatts.com/about-dk.
This has nothing to do with my Nebraska trip, at first glance. But I found myself wondering, as we spoke and laughed last night, what life would have been like for me without the many direct experiences I have had with people of other races. More to come, as I think of it.